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Hebrew Studies 31 (1990) 171 Reviews DEVOTION AND COMMANDMENT: THE FAITH OF ABRAHAM IN THE HASIDIC IMAGINATION. By Arthur Green. The Gustave A. and Mamie W. Efroymson Memorial Lectures, 1986. Pp. 99. Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College. 1989. Cloth. The human religious experience has expressed itself in two opposing dimensions: religion is seen as the striving of the individual for inwardness, transcendence. and direct access to divinity, and. on the other hand. religion is seen as a group's articulation of its system of meaning. For some 2000 years mediation between God and his people has taken place for Jews through the revealed Torah and its mitzvot. Devotion to God is translated in the rabbinic tradition into a commitment for a way of life that follows the divine command. What fonn. however, did devotion and piety take for the patriarchs, especially Abraham. in the long centuries before the Sinaitic revelation? By their interpretation of Gen 16:5 the rabbis could assert that Abraham observed both the Torah and the Oral Law (cf. Qidd. 4:14 and t. Qidd. 5 et al. as listed in S. Sandmel "Philo's Place in Judaism," part 2, HUCA [1955]:156f.). Philo and Paul, as well as the later kabbalistic authors, dealt with this problem of piety prior to and/or independent of Sinai. The issue was raised anew by hasidic masters in the late eighteenth century once the tension between spiritual devotion and the life of commandment had come to the surface since it had been demonstrated so prominently and dangerously in the Sabbatarian upheaval a century earlier. Green quotes from the homilies of such men as Dov Baer and his disciples, Levi Yizhak of Berdichev and the Kalonymus Kalman Epstein, all of whom see in Abraham's life of piety the spiritual-mystical embodiment of the 613 mitzvot. Major attention is then given to Nahman of Bratslav (1772-1810), Shne'ur Zalman of Ladi (1745-1813), and their immediate literary successors. These writers resolved the dichotomy between the spiritualistic and the thought patterns of the sacramental by a return to the pre-hasidic Kabbalah. While asserting the primacy of Torah study and observance, they were given the key to unlock the mysterium within the mitzvot. These seven lectures, presented in 1986 at HUC-JIR, Cincinnati, make challenging but difficult reading even for the professional student of Jewish thought Frank Rosenthal Camarillo, CA 93012 ...


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